Spring Break 2016: 5 Secret Road Trip Gems Near L.A.

You can get an idea of what traveling in Southern California was like before the freeways were jammed with vehicles by taking a spring break road trip from Los Angeles to the Santa Ynez Valley, north of Santa Barbara. While the destination is famous for its wineries (made famous in the movie "Sideways"), getting there is half the fun.

1. Garages of the stars in Malibu
Avoid the boring and busy 101 Freeway through the San Fernando Valley by taking scenic Pacific Coast Highway along the coast instead. Make a left on Broad Beach Road, which winds parallel to PCH, past the houses of the very rich and famous who live on this stretch of Malibu Beach. Well, past the backs of these houses. But who knows, you might see Steven Spielberg backing his Tesla out of his garage or Dustin Hoffman taking out the garbage.

2. Strawberry fields (almost) forever and an old Woolworth store
North of Malibu, Highway 1 cuts across miles of strawberry fields. Imagine when California was full of wide-open spaces like these—and when you could buy stuff for 10 cents or less at dime stores. The Woolworth Museum in Oxnard is a faithful recreation of one of these long-gone 5-and-10-cent stores.

3. A restaurant that once was a stagecoach stop
Take Highway 1 to the 101 Freeway, and exit at State Route 154, aka San Marcos Pass Road. Look for the Stagecoach Road turnoff, which will take you on a winding road to Cold Spring Tavern, a rustic restaurant that used to be a stagecoach stop. Expect the place to be packed on Sundays, when there's live outdoor music.

4. The Cold Spring Canyon Bridge
You probably won't notice its beauty as you drive across it on the 154, so take a less than half-mile walk or drive north from the Cold Spring Tavern for a scenic view of the award-winning Cold Spring Canyon Bridge, the fifth-largest span arch bridge of its type in the world.

5. Cachuma Lake
Continue north on State Route 154 to the Cachuma Lake Recreation Area. Fishing and boating is allowed on the lake, but swimming is not, since it's actually a domestic water supply. Drought permitting, you can rent a kayak for around $11 for the first hour.

Laura Goldman is a freelance writer and lifelong Angeleno. Check out her i Still Love Dogs blog and follow her on Twitter.

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